More Than 500 UK Researchers Sign Research Defence Society Statement In Support of Animal Research

In August, the Research Defence Society announced that more than 500 British researchers had signed its Declaration on Animals in Medical Research, including three Nobel laureates and 190 Fellows of the Royal Society.

The Declaration highlights the important contributions made by animal research to benefit humanity and underscores the importance of further research. Fifteen years ago, a similar declaration was circulated by the Research Defence Society which ultimately garnered 1,000 signatures including six Nobel laureates.

Simon Festing, executive director of the Research Defence Society, said in a press release that,

We are delighted to have gathered over 500 signatures from top UK academic scientists and doctors in less than one month. It shows the strength and depth of support for humane animal research in this country. Abolitionist groups often claim that their position has scientific or medical support, but itÂ’s no surprise that they cannot back this up.

Cancer researcher Nick Wright, dean of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry explained why he signed the Declaration,

I have signed this Declaration because I recognise the enormous contribution made to modern health care and public health by animals in medical research. As the pace of discovery quickens, it becomes even more important if we are to maintain this momentum. This is why I believe that we should all publicly acknowledge our debt to animal experimentation.

The full text of the Declaration reads,

Declaration on Animals in Medical Research

Throughout the world people enjoy a better quality of life because of advances made
possible through medical research, and the development of new medicines and other
treatments. A small but vital part of that work involves the use of animals.

In 1990, top scientists and physicians from the UK, as well as Nobel Laureates,
signed a Declaration that stated, among other things:

“Experiments on animals have made an important contribution to advances in medicine and surgery,
which have brought major improvements in the health of human beings and animals.”

Fifteen years later

We reaffirm our support for the 1990 Declaration, and for the statement from the House of Lords Select Committee
on Animals in Scientific Procedures (2002) that: “there is a continued need for animal experimentation both in applied
research and in research aimed purely at extending knowledge”
and for the statement from the Royal Society report
The Use of Non-Human Animals in Research (2004) that: “humans have benefited immensely from scientific research involving
animals, with virtually every medical achievement in the past century reliant on the use of animals in some way”.

Animal welfare

We acknowledge and respect the sentience of animals. Until we no longer require animals in research, animal
welfare is of paramount importance. We aim to gain the benefits from animal research with minimal suffering
and distress. It is crucial to promote best practice and maintain a culture of care in research establishments.
Every effort must be made to: replace the use of live animals by alternative techniques; reduce the number of
animals used to the minimum required for meaningful results; and refine the procedures and improve housing
to ensure the well-being of the animals.


The UK is widely acknowledged to have the most rigorous controls on animal research in the world. Both
institutions and individuals must adhere to legislation governing the use of animals in research.


We wish to see an open and responsible debate about the use of animals for all purposes. This can be difficult
in the face of animal rights extremism. We encourage institutions to provide clear information about animal
research, and foster rational discussion about the ethical, medical and scientific issues.


All use of animals by society should be considered in an ethical context. Proposals to use animals in science must
be critically evaluated and justified. The validity, usefulness and relevance of the research need to be demonstrated
in every case. Research using animals should be subject to cost / benefit assessment and ethical review.

Signed (as individual)


Animal testing backed by 500 UK scientists. Reuters, August 25, 2005.

15 years on: top scientists and doctors back animal research. Press Release, Research Defence Society, August 24, 2005.

Blair Speaks Out Against Animal Rights Extremism

In an interview with The Times (UK), British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke out against rising “anti-science” attitudes in Great Britain, including animal rights extremism.

In a preview of a major speech Blair is scheduled to give on the topic later this week, Blair condemned animal rights violence. Blair told the Times,

It is completely unacceptable for people to try to disrupt and destroy the legitimate research on which these (ethical) issues will ultimately be judged.

. . .

It is time to defend science, to make clear that the government is not going to allow misguided protests against science to get in the way of confronting the challenges of making the most of our opportunities.

Research Defence Society’s Mark Matfield told the Times that he was pleased with Blair’s statements in defense of animal research,

We welcome this hugely. Tony Blair has always been very pro-science and pro-scientist, and we were impressed with the way he refused to mince words over Huntingdon Life Sciences. All our research shows that it does make a very significant difference to public attitudes when you see political leaders speak out on these issues.

Blair’s speech is scheduled for this Thursday, May 23.


Blair condemns protesters who thwart science. Philip Webster and Mark Henderson, The Times (UK), May 20, 2002.

Britain’s Blair slams ‘anti-science’ attitudes. Reuters, May 19, 2002.

Blair vows to ‘speak up for science’. The BBC, May 19, 2002.

'My Daughter Deserves the Chance to Live'

In a recent newsletter, Americans for Medical Progress pointed out a fascinating exchange of letters between an animal rights activist and the mother of a cystic fibrosis patient in the pages of New Scientist.

On March 23, 2002, Chris Nay of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection wrote a letter attacking a recent pro-animal research campaign by the Research Defence Society. That campaign featured 16-year-old Laura Cowell who suffers from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease.

Nay’s attack is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. According to Nay,

. . . the RDS is not the first group to realise the potential of such a “campaign mascot” as an effective though predictable choice in their propaganda war. Indeed, such patronizing campaigns where patients are often portrayed as helpless victims eternally indebted to the tireless philanthropy of the pharmaceuticals industry are nothing new.

Given the propensity for the animal rights movement in general and BUAV in particular to substitute pictures of cute animals to hide their severely deficient critique of medical research, this is absurd.

Moreover the patronizing is done here by Nay. It would of course be better for his group if people whose life literally depends on animal research would just roll over and die without raising any sort of objection. Far from being a “helpless victim,” Cowell came across as a fighter who, unfortunately, has to contend not only with her deadly disease but with an animal rights movement that puts the lives of rats and mice on an equal moral plane with hers.

In fact, Nay is not afraid to put the mice and rats in a morally superior position to Cowell. After saying that he has “to questions the validity of” the claim that Cowell’s life has been extended due to animal research (of course he questions this, but never provides any evidence that it is an inaccurate claim), Nay launches into the heart of the animal rights argument,

The RDS claim that people benefit from vivisection. The BUAV believes people will benefit if vivisection is banned. Either way, it is indisputable that throughout history the oppressor has often benefited from the suffering and exploitation of the oppressed, sometimes substantially. The question the RDS seems unwilling or unable to address is whether it is ever morally acceptable for the strong to ameliorate their suffering by transferring it to the weak.

When Cowell seeks to prolong her life by supporting animal research, she is no different from 17th and 18th century colonialists and slave traders who oppressed others simply to benefit their own position.

Cowell, the cystic fibrosis sufferer, is the oppressor. The animals that have provided key insights into cystic fibrosis, the oppressed.

In a response to Nay, Laura Cowell’s mother Vicky, who chairs Seriously Ill for Medical Research, responded to Nay’s points, writing,

If the life of a child is not more valuable than that of a mouse then there is something very wrong with our society. It is because of ongoing research using transgenic mice with cystic fibrosis that the quality of life for thousands of people like Laura is improving. Scientists will one day find a cure for her condition. Surely she deserves the chance to live — and to live a full and productive life?

You bet she does.


Emotive campaign. Chris Nay, New Scientist, March 23, 2002.

My daughter deserves the chance to live. Vicky Cowell, New Scientist.

Research Defence Society Goes On the Offensive Against Animal Rights Misinformation

Earlier this month Great Britain’s Research Defence Society launch a campaign to publicize the benefits of medical research with animals and dispel some of the misinformation about that research commonly spread by animal rights activists.

The campaign features 16-year-old Laura Cowell. Cowell suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and Diabetes. Like many cystic fibrosis sufferers, she has to take dozens of pills a day simply to stay alive. Even with enormous advancements made in treating her disease over the past couple decades, Cowell will be lucky to live to 50 without further medical advances. Advances, of course, which animal rights activists are doing everything in their power to prevent.

Cowell told The Guardian (London),

All my life I have been aware of how important this research is. Ever since I can remember I have been taking medicine. So far I have managed to live a fairly normal life. My mum says I should fit cystic fibrosis around my life rather than the other way around. I love animals and I have pets of my own but I owe my life to medical research. Without it I would be dead.

|Mark Matfield|, the director of the Research Defence Society, told The Guardian that it was time more people in the research industry spoke out against the animal rights movement. “There is a real fear about being targeted by the animal rights movement,” Matfield told the newspaper. “There may be risk involved in speaking out, but people like myself, with a high profile . . . should lead by example.”

Matfield has received death threat from animal rights activists and had his car vandalized for speaking out in favor of animal research.

Nancy Rothwell, a researcher at Manchester University, echoes this Matfield’s sentiment, telling The Guardian, “It is important that we are challenged about the research we carry out, but unfortunately the minority who take extreme action, like sending death threats, stifle that debate. We have been too apologetic in this country to make the case, but we have also been frightened because of the threat of physical violence.”

The Research Defence Society has produced a slick, thorough pamphlet about the role of animal research, Understanding Animal Research in Medicine which is available for download as a PDF file from its web site.


Researchers hit back at animal rights activists. Paul Kelso, The Guardian (London), January 16, 2002.

Researchers hit back at animal rights activists. Paul Kelso, The Guardian (London), January 16, 2002. (Note this article is cited twice since The Guardian published two different version of it in two different editions of its paper).

Living proof defends animal research. Mark Henderson, The Times (London), January 16, 2002.

The Barry Horne Fiasco

Animal rights activist and
convicted arsonist Barry Horne recently ended his much-publicized hunger
strike after 68 days. Horne, currently serving an 18-year prison term
in the United Kingdom for a series of arson attacks, began his hunger
strike after Britain’s Labour government failed to deliver on a campaign
pledge to create a special commission to examine animal experimentation.
The prolonged hunger strike, however, raised more questions about Horne
and his supporters than about animal experimentation.

At first, Horne’s
hunger strike seemed to energize at least some parts of the animal rights
community on both sides of the Atlantic. Activists in the United States
and Great Britain staged numerous demonstrations and activities in support
of Horne, and some groups began linking their generic protests against
fur or animal experimentation with Horne’s hunger strike. But in
December the whole affair turned into a public relations disaster as the
animal rights terrorists got involved and Horne and his supporters made
a series of blunders.

Everything started to unravel
thanks to UK Animal Liberation Front spokesman Robin Webb. Webb, who made
numerous television appearances during the hunger strike, gave the media
a list he claimed came from the radical Animal Rights Militia. On the
list were the names of four people the ARM claimed would be assassinated
should Horne die.

The list included Christopher
Brown of Hillgrove Farm, who provides animal uses in medical experiments;
Colin Blakemore of Oxford University; Clive Page of King’s College;
and Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society. Death threats are no
strangers to Brown and Blakemore who have been targeted by UK activists
in an unrelenting campaign of harassment and terror; Blakemore’s
children once received mail bombs intended for him.

Webb tried to distance himself
from the ARM hit list, saying, “we do not condone this,” but
he couldn’t bring himself to condemn the threat of violence either,
and perhaps for good reason. A British television documentary on animal
rights violence included allegations that Webb actively encouraged such
violence. Former ALF member David Hammond claimed, for example, that Webb
was the main force behind the violent animal rights group, the |Justice
Department|. Hammond also claimed that Webb once offered him a sawed-off
shotgun and asked whether he knew Blakemore. Suddenly, Webb was off consulting
with lawyers rather than distributing hit lists.

And then something really strange
happened – amidst all of the talk over who would be killed if he
should died, Horne ended his hunger strike without obtaining any of the
concessions he demanded. This was odd because only several days before
the British newspaper The Observer ran a story quoting Horne
saying, “I want to die. This is the end. In death you win. …
It is not a question of dying. It’s a question of fighting. If I
die, so be it. We have tried to negotiate with the Government. They have
condemned me to death.”

The same story quoted his next-of-kin,
Alison Lawson, saying “It is only a matter of time now [before Horne

Following publication of that
story, however, Horne and the Animals Betrayed Coalition, which has been
the main animal rights group publicizing Horne’s plight, denounced
The Observer’s story and emphatically said that Horne,
in fact, wanted to live. What was going on here?

According to a story published in The Observer a few days after Horne ended his hunger strike, Horne had
planned a long fast but wanted to end his strike well before death, much
as he had done in two previous hunger strikes. Seeing newspaper stories
with quotes from activists such as Tony Humphries suggesting “he
is a dead man” forced Horne’s hand, The Observer argues, and led him to issue the press release insisting he wanted to
live. Some animal rights activists might have wanted a martyr, but Horne
wasn’t willing to play the part.

Ultimately, Horne ended his
hunger strike not only without getting the concessions from the Labour
government he sought, but if anything his actions delayed the creation
of a committee to look at animal experimentation, since the Labour government
doesn’t want to be seen as giving in to blackmail and threats of
political terrorism. The Animals Betrayed Coalition did try to put a positive
spin on the story by claiming Horne decided to end his hunger strike after
examining papers sent to him by the Labour government, but those were
apparently papers Horne had in his possession for some time and which,
in any case, did not grant the assurances Horne sought.

There are many lessons from
the Horne fiasco, the most obvious of which is the extent to which animal
rights activists of all stripes are willing to support terrorists and
terrorist activities, starting with Horne himself. Although Horne wasn’t
willing to die for the cause, he was willing to endanger the lives of
others during the arson campaign for which he is now serving an 18-year
sentence. Horne planted incendiary devices, hidden in a packet of cigarettes,
in stores of which he disapproved. Horne’s activities were particularly
dangerous, however, because he planted his bombs in the products sold
at the stores.

One of his devices, for example,
was hidden in a leather bag which a woman subsequently bought. The device
wasn’t discovered until four months later, after the woman had allowed
her children to play with the bag. Horne’s activities represent an
extraordinarily callous disregard for human life, and he deserves every
single day of his jail term. As Ian Glen, who prosecuted Horne, told the
jury that convicted him, “the risks and dangers to human life were
blindingly obvious and the risks were either run or ignored for the sake
of political beliefs.”

That animal rights activists
would rally around such an individual speaks volumes about the moral compass
of the movement. Animal rights activists like to compare their cause to
the U.S. civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King Jr. and others
didn’t sneak around planting bombs in handbags – in fact the
civil rights movement activists were victims of the sort of violence the
animal rights movement perpetuates.

Medical researcher Colin
Blakemore, one of the targets of the ARM hit list, wrote an op-ed piece
noting something peculiar about those singled out for violence:

[When he was first targeted by activists] I was convinced that openness
offered the only route to understanding. But that very stance angers
the terrorists. It is surely significant that three of the four people
who were actually named for assassination by the Animal Rights Militia,
myself included, have participated in broadcast debates on the use of
animals in the past few weeks. The message is clear: defend yourself,
try to respond to criticism, and you may be killed. The perpetrators
of such tactics are not interested in dialogue: they are a lynch mob
that will not even give their victims the right to defend themselves.

The other important lesson
is that negotiating with terrorists only encourages more terrorism. As
Blakemore points out in his article, Horne and other animal rights activists
have been encouraged by a Labour government that actively courted them
during the most recent election cycle. According to Blakemore, Labour
accepted over 1 million pounds in donations from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and in exchange led animal rights activists to believe
it would convene a commission to look at modifying Great Britain’s
1986 Animals Act which regulates animal experimentation.

The Labour government did
follow throw by banning Cosmetics Testing, which was a rather minor
victory given how few such tests were actually being carried out in the
UK (most such tests are performed in the United States, Japan or France).
The British government should follow Blakemore’s advice and condemn
all animal rights violence and extremism.


I will talk to those who threaten to murder me. Colin Blakemore, Sunday Telegraph (UK), December 1998.

Horne: I’m dying to save ‘tortured’ animals. Yahoo! News, December 6, 1998.

‘I want to die. It’s the end.’ The Observer (UK), December 6, 1998.

Animal activist attacked shops with fire-bombs. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 4, 1997.

‘Ruthless’ animal rights bomber convicted. Will Bennett, Electronic Telegraph, November 13, 1997.

Horne ends hunger strike. A.J. McIlroy, December 13, 1998.

Revealed: how Barry Horne refused to become a martyr for the cause. The Observer, December 20, 1998.

Animal rights protester ends hunger strike. ITV News, December 14, 1998.

Militant protests target Britain. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 24, 1998.

Police fear backlash if animal activist dies. John Steele, November 26, 1998.

Supporters rally for hunger striker. The BBC, November 29, 1998.

Hunger striker back in jail. The BBC, December 11, 1998.

Ordinary guy heading for martyrdom. The Telegraph, December 7, 1998.

Day 53 of Hunger Strike. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 29, 1998.

Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Release, November 22, 1998.

Prisoner in hunger protest ‘near death.’ The Independent (UK), November 22, 1998.

Animal liberation prisone hunger striker given last rites: Barry Horne to go into intensive care. Animals Betrayed Coalition, Press Release, November 23, 1998.

Animal liberation prisoner close to death. North American Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, November 22, 1998.

ARM lists potential targets. Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, December 3, 1998.

Animal rights ‘hit list.’ The Guardian (UK), December 3, 1998.

Dolly Scientists on Security Alert. The Scottsman, December 3, 1998.

We’ll kill 10 if this man dies. The Mirror, December 3, 1998.

Scientists on alert after death threats. The BBC, December 4, 1998.